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If you’re like me, 2020 has made your typical fitness routine toast. From virtual to outdoor classes in a record heatwave, it seems like I never know what challenges this year will throw at me. And just when I thought I had a good routine figured out, I developed jumper’s knee from the impact of outdoor workouts.
I’ve had adventures with this particular brand of tendinitis before and know that healing requires a reduction of high-impact activity. Because I do HIIT workouts regularly, this meant exploring a new world of fitness that would challenge me while I need to balance sweat with recovery and I decided to give online Pilates a try.
At about the same time, I saw a social media post from Jess Hughes, the owner of Citizen Pilates in Houston, Texas, announcing her new on-demand virtual membership. Even though I’ve interviewed Jess multiple times over the years, visited one of their studios, AND own some of their swag, I had yet to take a class from Citizen.
Then, when I browsed Citizen’s library to determine the best workout videos for my adventure into online Pilates, I was stoked to see that there was a video focused on abs and hip mobility—essentially, it was my perfect fit.
After taking the class (which I loved, btw!), here are my top three tips for you to start your at-home, virtual Pilates practice based on my experience in class.
To find the perfect workout, you need to first identify what you like and what type of challenge you’re looking for. There are a lot of different types of Pilates workouts out there. For example, if you are looking for a challenging session that won’t require a shower after, you may be more interested in a class that mimics the feel of a reformer with the use of a resistance band. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a full-body workout that will leave you dripping in sweat, there are fusion and HIIT hybrid classes out there. Whatever your goal is, there’s a Pilates style out there for you.
You also need to know if you prefer live-streamed or on-demand classes. With so many choices, you need to know your preferred workout style and your goals to pick the right one. For me, I have a virtual workout time limit of 30 minutes. Any longer than that and I stop giving my full effort and start thinking about my next meal. I’m also an introvert, and live workouts take a lot out of me because, to me, it feels like the instructor is in my home. I can do live stream workouts sometimes, but taking them every day would be emotionally exhausting. Because I knew my workout needs, I knew that I needed to find a high-quality, 30-minute on-demand class.
The other reason why I love on-demand workouts is that if the class isn't enjoyable, I can always turn it off, and no one else knows. That said, let me go ahead and give you the spoiler: I did not turn off Citizen Pilates. In fact, I was surprised when it was over after 30 minutes because the class went so well, I lost track of time. That’s not to say it was easy—my Apple Watch, my heart rate got into the low hundreds and I burned some serious calories in a short time.
I’ve learned that planning is the key to success with virtual workouts. Since I’m an early morning workout person, I set up my living room and mat before I went to bed to make sure that I was ready to roll when I woke up. Be sure to place your mat in a place that allows you to see your phone, computer, or whatever device you’re using to watch the video easily. Pilates is all about proper posture and alignment—so make sure your setup doesn’t require you to move your head and neck awkwardly! You’ll also want to make sure that the space around your mat is clear of anything you might kick or whack with a part of your body. Trust me—it hurts when you unexpectedly hit something hard with your pinkie toe!
While working from home has been a boon for the sweatpants market, leave the loose-fitting clothes for after your sweat sesh. Stick to close-fitting workout gear for your Pilates class—I recommend a tank top and capris or longer pants. Sleeves can get in the way of some types of arm work, and you’ll want to protect your knees from mat chafe. Again—trust me, it doesn’t feel great. If you’re doing a live stream class, try to wear solid colors so that the instructor can clearly see the lines of your body to coach you better. And, depending on your mat, you might want to consider socks with grips to help prevent you from sliding around.
While my workout didn't have a lot of sweeping motions, there was a movement where we combined a leg raise with a push-up. There was enough of a challenge just doing the movement, that dealing with obstacles at the same time was more difficult than necessary.
About halfway through the class, the instructor called out “Momentum isn’t a muscle.” She said it to remind students that they needed to have control over their movements, and let their muscles, not gravity, do the work. While it’s true of any Pilates class, it especially applies to virtual classes. When you take a Pilates class in person, your instructor will help guide your tempo, either with counting, music, or breathing exercises. That in-person pacing goes out the window when you’re working out from home, but it’s still critical to getting results. When you take a virtual Pilates class, make sure you’re taking the same pace as the instructor—and don’t speed up slow movements, unless they tell you it is okay!
Here’s an example from the class I took from Citizen Pilates class. Late in the class, there was a tough movement where you had the choice of raising your body off the mat in a modified side plank or staying on the mat. The stimulus of the movement was the thigh, not the core, and if you ignored the instructors' pace cues, you would have gotten a very different workout—and burned out your arms holding up your body. I stayed on the mat, doing my best mermaid impression, and wound up thighs that reminded me of my workout for the next two days. Basically, it was a success.
It really is the perfect time to try Pilates—with so many options of classes to take, you’re sure to find the ideal match for your goals. When you’re ready, search the Mindbody app to find a virtual class, whether it’s at a studio near you, or half the world away.
Ah, 2020—the year that truly put our sanity to the test. On top of that, something that most people use to navigate through a tough time has essentially been stripped away from us—our normal workout routines. I don’t know about you, but even skipping a week at the gym can send me into a tailspin. But several months of sheltering in place and being forced to adapt to this new normal?
That’s a different story.
While I think we can all say we’re grateful that fitness studios were quick to offer virtual classes when COVID-19 hit—there is something about constantly working out by ourselves that may trigger some of us to hit pause on our workout routines and start turning towards less robust habits. *Reluctantly raises hand*
The other day I came across a stat that really set off some alarms. According to a recent study, Americans are spending an additional two hours each day on their couch since March 2020. As of recently, I can say I’m totally guilty of a little too much R&R. While an evening of Netflix and wine once sounded like heaven on earth for most of us, I think it’s safe to say the repetition of this is starting to get kind of old. Also, Schitt’s Creek is over now, so I really don’t have any excuse to not dedicate my free time to jumping back into my at-home workouts.
I started pondering what made dial back my fitness routine in the first place? Was it a lack of motivation? No, not really. Screen fatigue? I think my Netflix history outlined above would tell you that’s a solid ‘no.’ Then it hit me—the thing that motivated me to stay on top of my fitness goals was being around other people with the same goals. Pre-COVID, going to my favorite spin studio and the local yoga hot spot was how I typically spent my social hour during the workweek. I realized the best way to amp up my at-home workout routine was to re-connect with my workout buddies and start doing virtual classes together to create that sense of community I craved.
If you’re also experiencing some form of live stream lull when it comes to your workouts, then getting a virtual workout buddy may be exactly what you need. Here’s why:
Just like in-person workouts, making plans to sweat it out with one of your friends motivates you to show up and be your best self. According to the Mindbody Wellness Index, 25% of the folks we surveyed said they found it difficult to hold themselves accountable to their workout goals on their own—and an additional 20% of people said a lack of support was responsible for missed workouts.
Everybody enjoys a little friendly competition, right? Maybe you have a friend who is a powerhouse at virtual HIIT—try signing up for a class with them to help you take your workout to a whole new level.
Getting a workout sesh in with a friend is the perfect time to try a new exercise such as virtual yoga or virtual barre. Trying something new can be scary—I get it. But by trying a new type of exercise with a friend, you can both give each other a confidence boost by acting as each other’s personal hype man.
Look, we’re all craving human interaction these days—and I know I’m not the only one who is missing weekly happy hours with friends. Luckily, fitness studios are getting creative with their virtual offerings post-workout, too! When we asked members of our MindbodyOne Community how they are keeping things interesting for their students in the virtual space, they said they are hosting monthly virtual wine dates to share fitness stories and personal victories. Not only do you get to drink wine, but you and your buddy get to meet other like-minded people at the same time.
As 2020 winds down (thank goodness), you have a unique opportunity to reconnect with your friends and take your workout sessions to the next level with a virtual workout buddy. So, why not start now? Book a virtual fitness class and encourage your friends to show up for you and themselves today.